"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Two Paths

I remember when we first moved to Dallas from Topeka. I was driving a little rental truck with our few pieces of furniture, clothing and books. In our efforts to find the seminary neighborhood, I went a little too far and, landed in what is affectionately called "the spaghetti bowl" for its tangled loops of asphalt. As a result, I got off on the wrong exit. I found myself in a sketchy neighborhood.

In the theology and philosophy of many these days, there is no wrong road, there are no wrong turns. As in my initial Dallas adventure, the Apostle Paul insisted, one is either on the right road or the wrong road:

"Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, which transforms our lowly bodies, so that they will be like his glorious body." Philippians 3:17-21

Paul first refers to "the pattern we gave you." This is both in teaching and the way Paul lived his life. His ultimate priority, his only goal, was to glorify Christ and to bring the good news of grace and truth to as many people as possible. Christ was glorified, not only in the teaching and writings of Paul but, also in the selfless way he lived his life. He willingly left behind position, power, prestige and privilege in order to become all Jesus wanted him to be. Here, he encourages his readers to follow the same pattern.

This pattern is in stark contrast to another path that some take: to live as enemies of the cross. Paul speaks of the destination of these people with clarity and with tears. Like God, Paul does not want to see people walk headlong into destruction. The mindset of these people is "on earthly things" (see Colossians 3), their god is their stomach (hedonism), and their glory (earthly fame) is their shame.

In contrast to this path to destruction, Paul comes back to the path of his redemption: a citizenship in heaven, eagerly awaiting a Savior (the Lord Jesus). Christ has the power to bring everything under his control (to ultimately redeem everything) and, even to transform our lowly bodies to be like his glorified body.

This letter is written to believers who are in need of some joy. Joy is theirs to have and enjoy, but, losing their focus for a while, they have let their minds and hearts slip into the pattern of this world, to dwell on earthly things. These things may bring bursts of happiness, but biblical joy is found in knowing our destination. That destination comes quicker than we think, and it lasts forever. Keep your eyes on Jesus. He alone holds your destiny, hope, and joy.

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